Leaving Traces in Your Brain
By eliz_carpenter on May 12, 2014
Day after day, your mind is building your brain. So what are you thinking about, obsessing about? What are you enjoying every day?
Due to a concept known as Neural Darwinism – “survival of the busiest” – whatever captures your mindshare dominates your brain changes. Actually, with every thought and feeling you teach your brain WHAT to think about, and HOW you should feel. Turns out that old meditation saying is a scientific fact: “you become what your mind rests upon.”
FACT: You are leaving traces in your brain with your thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D. neuropsychologist, in his wonderful new book, “Hardwiring Happiness,” explains the concept of experience-dependent neuroplasticity:
Your repeating thoughts and experiences “don’t just grow new synapses, remarkable as that is by itself, but also somehow reach down into your genes—into little strips of atoms in the twisted molecules of DNA inside the nuclei of neurons—and change how they operate. For instance, if you routinely practice relaxation, this will increase the activity of genes that calm down stress reactions, making you more resilient.”
But it’s ANY repeating thought-feeling, not just those useful ones. What matters most is how you spend the bulk of your mental time. So what are you doing with your mental time? What are you asking your brain for more of? Self-criticism, worry, love, joy, anxiety, fear, anger? Hanson says your attention on a something first acts like a spotlight to highlight it, and then behaves like a vacuum cleaner and sucks it up into your brain – for good or bad. The more time you spend dwelling on something, the more you hardwire it in! Awesome, or awful, your choice.
The Bad News:
Most of us are spending a lot of time replaying bad things that have happened (an argument, a resentment, a regret) and bad things we anticipate (worry and fear of what we don’t want to happen).
2 Kinds of Good News:
First, we can choose to linger over and replay the good stuff, to rewire and hardwire ourselves for more goodies Second, by waking ourselves up mid mind-rant, we can interrupt our negative thinking and decide to shift mental focus onto something better.
How To Use Your Mind to Build a Better Brain:
- Consciously enjoy and extend your time feeling grateful over the good stuff that happens to you, someone you care about, or in the world.
- Feel thankful a few extra seconds when good things come your way
- Notice when you’re enjoying good conversation, good food, a good experience and consciously take pleasure in it
These simple practices focus your attention so your brain highlights and sucks up the good stuff, leaving positive traces and instructions in your brain.
> You become more resilient.
> You hardwire happiness
> Self-rx brain anti-aging /dementia-prevention
Go for it – dare to enjoy all your goodies and build a better brain!
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